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The Volkswagen Golf GTI gets a facelift, inclusive of revised exterior designs, digitalised displays and more power from its 2.0-litre TSI engine.

22 Feb 2017

Volkswagen's Golf GTI is known as the sire of hot hatches since its introduction to the motoring world some 40 over years ago.

The original fast German hatch was a car every boy racer dreamed of owning. But today, in a market that is shared by the BMW M140i, the Ford Focus RS and the Honda Civic Type R; inclusive of more hardcore versions of the GTI such as the Clubsport, the Clubsport S and the Golf R, the standard GTI has begun to sound quite… rudimentary, if you want one for pure driving pleasure.

However, the GTI, like its not-as-hot siblings, is given a nip-and-tuck for 2017; sans new engine. And, we think it's enough for it to be one of the best multifaceted hot hatches your money can buy today.

We blasted down Majorca's many scenic roads in a signature Tornado Red GTI

Same powertrain, more power

While the regular petrol-powered Golfs get a new turbocharged 1.5-litre TSI Evo engine, which replaces the 1.4-litre of old, the GTI gets a retune, bumping power by 10bhp from 217bhp previously.

The Wolfsburgian manufacturer also promises a new DSG gearbox for the GTI - a seven-geared unit that's similar to the Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo that we drove is scheduled to replace the six-speeder. Unfortunately, during our time with the GTI in Majorca, the current wet-clutch gearbox was still married to the hot hatch. The 1.5 TSI Evo's creamy new autobox was nothing short of sublime so we're very excited to find out how this new DSG performs in a GTI, in time to come.

An improved engine cooling system, more boost and an ECU reflash help the GTI make 227bhp, 10bhp more than before

The car's 10bhp bump in power isn't very noticeable but the engine note is throatier and it's a tad punchier higher up the rev range. It's certainly no slouch, too, as we learnt during hard shoves on the right pedal, which causes the front tyres to scream for traction from dead start or corner exits. 0-100km/h sprint timing now takes 6.4 seconds, 0.1 seconds quicker than the outgoing model.

Like before, the car's ability to supply you with ample power at every calling of your right foot while providing you ample grip at the front makes the GTI a very easy and confident car to drive fast. And even though the GTI's firm suspension system isn't one that's suited for everyone, it's not hard enough to sabotage ride comfort.

Tech's das word

The most obvious updates take place inside. Like the regular Golf, the GTI sports the marque's latest Active Info Display and Discover Pro infotainment system. While such fancy schmancy bits of technology do make its cabin more premium, as we mentioned in our previous review, conventional control knobs work best for us. We also found the system's gesture control to be more ruse than of use.

Highlights in the cabin are the car's new Active Info Display cluster (left) and Discover Pro infotainment system

You also get a ton of safety and semi-automous features on the GTI but we suspect having them or not isn't much of a concern for someone buying a hot hatch. Otherwise, the GTI's cabin is almost unchanged; material quality is high, and driving position is bang-on.

Outside, changes to the car are more modest; the GTI nerds should be able to spot them easily, though. For example, there are new 17-inch rims, revised front and rear bumpers, tweaked LED head lights and fancy LED tail lamps, which feature Audi-like dynamic indicators as standard.

Should I buy a GTI, then?

As far as hot hatches go, there are certainly more stimulating types. The GTI isn't the fastest nor the most advanced hot hatch out there, but balances being a driver's car and a comfortable, premium product.

380 litres of trunk space means the GTI isn't just a very capable hot hatch but also one that's ideal for family usage

If you're in the market for a properly sorted, 'go everywhere, do anything' performance hatch, the GTI continues to be one of the most satisfying to have.
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